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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
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Recovering policy implementation : understanding implementation through informal communication / Lee S. Duemer [and] Sylvia Mendez-Morse.
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1 of 11 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 10 Number 39September 23, 2002ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2002, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES .Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education .Recovering Policy Implementation: Understanding Implementation through Informal Commu nication Lee S. Duemer Sylvia Mendez-Morse Texas Tech UniversityCitation: Duemer, L. S. & Mendez-Morse, S. (2002, S eptember 23). Recovering policy implementation: Understanding implementation throug h informal communication, Education Policy Analysis Archives 10 (39). Retrieved [date] from a/v10n39.html.AbstractThis study identifies themes in the theoretical lit erature on policy implementation that can then be used to develop a r esearch-based framework for the scholar about how qualitative res earch can be used to analyze policy implementation through the investiga tion of informal and formal communication lines. This article draws from existing scholarship to bridge the gap between policy studie s and qualitative research to explore innovative ways for scholars to expand our understanding of policy implementation. The article uses the literature to propose a framework that can be used to examine pol icy implementation.


2 of 11The framework is based on the concepts of Orientati on, Degree, Resources, Activity, Autonomy, Societal Values, Ins titutional Values, Rationale and Power Relationship. Understanding policy implementation is difficult en ough when sufficient documentation exists to reassemble events into a coherent picture The problem becomes more complex when informal communication lines have been utilize d to communicate or transfer information (White, 1990). Informal lines are consi dered to be the people-to-people communications such as conversations and often are labeled the "grapevine." Informal lines of communication are often used rather than f ormal lines for facility. Why write a memorandum when less effort is expended through a t elephone call? Informal interactions such as telephone calls or direct enco unters, however, leave little or no archival data for the scholar to reconstruct events The issue of insufficient documentation is especially problematic with electr onic mail as messages are routinely deleted after an interval of time. White (1990) unc overed frequent use of informal lines of communication consisting of unrecorded and unsch eduled face-to-face interactions that paralleled a formal communication structure. P arallel systems such as the "chain of command" versus the "open door" have created proble ms of miscommunication and misunderstanding when enacting policy implementatio n (White, 1990, p. 14). Formal lines of communication were available but were ofte n not used to transfer information or make implementation decisions.Informal processes include, but are not limited to, conversations, disposable communications such as electronic mail and reliance on unspoken understandings such as tradition. The use of informal bureaucratic pro cesses enables a rapid and flexible response to difficult and controversial issues. Inf ormal communication processes enable policy to be implemented efficiently and effectivel y; however, they also eliminate written records of decisions and interactions. Info rmal patterns of communication leave few alternatives for the researcher but to rely on qualitative methods to recover policy implementation (Duemer, 1999). Even when written re cords exist, qualitatively based findings add depth and context to the study in ques tion (Blount, 1992). Such context-focused information is sometimes not availa ble from archival sources such as memoranda or minutes of meetings that lack such det ails for purposes of brevity (Duemer, 1999).Reliance on informal lines of communication, rather than the formal communication structures established by the organization, suggest s a need to explore and understand how informal communication channels function and th eir impact on policy implementation. Formal communications are directive regulatory, and structured means of conveying information considered necessary for g eneral audiences (Andrews & Herschel, 1996; Weber, 1947). These areas can be st udied using documentary evidence generated by the formal communication process. Ite ms such as memorandums, handbooks, meeting agendas and minutes are readily available to a scholar. The challenge is accessing the informal means of commun ication—the water cooler talks, the lunchroom chats, conversations in workrooms— wh ich frequently focus on the content of formal communication documents describin g policy. A large body of scholarship exists using qualitativ e methods as means of emphasizing the human element (Manning, 1990). Such a human emp hasis points toward potential usefulness of qualitative research in reconstructin g policy implementation; however,


3 of 11there does not exist a direct linkage with policy s tudies. March and Olsen (1976) inform us that organizational scholarship must pay particu lar attention to the human factors that influence decision-making. They indicate that perso nal values and agendas that are not on the surface evident to an investigator often inf luence decisions. Personal factors do not fit into a rational decision-making framework w here individual compliance is expected; however, personal factors can be accounte d for by a focus on the human element. The use of the personal element provides a better sense of context (Blount, 1992) through preserving the experiences of those w ho were involved in policy implementation (Manning, 1990).The purpose of this article is to identify themes i n the theoretical literature on policy implementation that can then be used to develop a r esearch-based framework for the scholar about how qualitative research can be used to recover policy implementation through the investigation of informal and formal co mmunication lines. This article draws from existing scholarship to bridge the gap b etween policy studies and qualitative research to explore innovative ways for scholars to expand our understanding of policy implementation. It is not intended to engage in an exhaustive analysis and interpretation of policy implementation as it applies qualitative research. Rather, the intent is to explore some of the theoretical literature as a mea ns of provoking scholars to think about ways in which organizational theory informs qualita tive research. An examination of informal lines of communication and their role in p olicy implementation can yield a more comprehensive understanding of how policies ar e implemented.Discerning Policy MutationImplementation is the means by which policy is carr ied into effect. Implementation can refer to a one-time effort at enacting a policy, or a continuous process such as strategic planning. The implementation process may involve ma ny different people and levels of hierarchy, any of which change the nature of policy from decision to implementation. In any event, implementation involves the process of m oving from decision to operation (Williams, 1976, p. 3). Understanding efforts to mu tate policy during implementation is essential to recognizing how policy may change thro ugh implementation, from its original form. There would be little need to explore policy mutati on if individuals behaved in the same predictable sense as chemical reactions. Human reac tions would be testable according to proscribed and predictable formulas; however, human beings do not behave, they act (Sergiovanni, 1984). "Actions differ from behavior in that they are born of preconceptions, assumptions, and motives, and these are embedded with meanings" (Sergiovanni, 1984, p. 106). The thoughts, assumpti ons, and preconceptions are filtered through values, preferences, prejudices, motives, a nd the like, to produce actions. Prediction is further complicated because actions v ary for different individuals even if the initiating factor remains unchanged (Sergiovann i, 1984). For example, two individuals in identical administrative positions m ay interpret the implementation of a particular policy in different manners due to oppos ite philosophical perspectives. Once an individual or policy-making body sets a pol icy, there is no guarantee that it will be implemented in the same way it was originally in tended. The difference between institutions and individuals is central to understa nding how policy can change from development to implementation. Mutation is more lik ely when policy is developed in a


4 of 11climate that regards implementation as merely a tec hnical detail (Pressman, 1984, p. 143). When a governing board directs an institution 's officers to implement a new policy, but does not define any operational limitat ions or delimitations, there is no way to know how implementation will occur or in what ma nner. Under such conditions it is inevitable that implementation will be influenced b y individual perceptions. Mutation can also occur as policy is processed thro ugh the levels of an organization's hierarchy. One way that levels of a hierarchy diffe r is that some are charged with policy development while others are charged with policy im plementation. School district central office administrators develop policy that i s then implemented by campus personnel. Policy can be changed or revised by inst itutional officials from inception to implementation in a manner that more closely meets their conception of what is in their or the institution's best interests (Elster, 1989, p. 157). Individuals can surreptitiously undermine a policy or initiative or at least declin e to work actively toward its implementation even when they claim to support it ( Duemer, 1998; Pressman, 1984, p. 135). For example, a residence life administrator m ay hinder the implementation of a college's desegregation policy by creating an unwel come atmosphere for incoming minority students (Duemer, 1998).Some administrative positions enjoy more freedom or autonomy than others through division of labor (Sergiovanni, 1984, p. 152; Taylo r, 1919; Weber, 1947). Division of labor provides for the development of specializatio n, separation of responsibilities, and more importantly to this article, the means of comm unication used by the people in differentiated roles. Autonomy provides individuals with various degrees of freedom to impose their own interpretations on the manner in w hich policy is implemented (Perrow, 1973). Labor division and specialization encourage individuals to identify and congregate into smaller units that share similar go als. This separation also contributes to the differences in the lines of communication, whic h are typically exemplified in the differences between formal and informal lines of co mmunication. Persons at higher hierarchical levels (another characteristic of labo r division) have greater access to more formal communications lines while those at lower le vels can more easily participate in the informal communication channels of the organiza tion.The Role of the Individual in Policy ImplementationThe use of qualitative research methods reflects th e idea that institutions are composed of individuals, and those individuals should be the focal point of inquiry. In order for an institution to accomplish anything, it must rely on individuals. Individuals have their own interests and reflect larger societal interests any of which may conflict with those of the institution. Investigations that focus on in dividuals seek to understand relationships among those inside the institution as well as relationships with those outside the institution. The use of qualitative met hods is consistent with theory that recognizes institutions to be composed of human wil l and rejects the idea of institutions as a group mind or social reality that is above or beyond human control (Greenfield, 1984, p. 152). Understanding the human element in p olicy is a central aspect of qualitative research, as the human element is the b asic unit of social life (Elster, 1989, p. 13). Such a perspective recognizes institutions as social constructs which serve society by holding it together and ensuring social stabilit y (Elster, 1989, p. 13; Feinberg and Soltis, 1992). Institutions are themselves held tog ether and maintained by individuals who share, to varying degrees, similar interests or goals.


5 of 11Elster (1989) reminds us that in order to understan d policy implementation it is essential to understand the actions and interactions of indiv iduals. A human-centered focus, versus an institution-centered focus, avoids the pi tfall of understanding institutions in terms of key leadership positions such as the study of leadership which is limited to a very narrow spectrum of all the individuals in an i nstitution (Greenfield, 1984, p. 160). Such a limited focus encourages scholars to remove the personal element and focus on the generic administrator devoid of personal identi ty or interests. Leadership and institutional investigations present a delusive ima ge of administrators and do not adequately account for the diversity of individuals and their organizational roles. Investigations which emphasize the individual eleme nt focus attention on individuals' identification with their own interests and breakdo wns in communication that increase the likelihood of policy mutation (Perrow, 1973). T he efficiency of bureaucratic organizations is compromised by the interpretations individuals make in policy implementation as the result of their own interests (March, 1984, p. 20). The idea that institutions are rational bureaucratic organization s where decisions are regulated by a structure of rules and sanctions is rejected by the recognition of individual influence. Institutions have been compared to facades that are intentionally designed to mislead observers from the reality that within are individu als who behave as they want (Greenfield, 1984, p. 160).Individual's Relationship to Policy ImplementationInvestigations that focus on the role of individual s reject the idea that an institution can embody any value, or that any one individual can em body the values of an institution. Such individual focused investigations reflect a pe rspective that recognizes the power of individuals to impact policy implementation and est ablishes a framework where competing values are uncovered and examined to deve lop an understanding of policy implementation. How do people negotiate or reinterp ret the policy so as to accommodate their own interests? What can be used to discover these individualized interpretations of policy? To further understand the human role, we ca n frame an individual's relationship to policy implementation in terms of Orientation, D egree, Resources, Activity, Autonomy, Societal Values, Institutional Values, Ra tionale and Power Relationship. Orientation: One's position with respect to attitud e, judgment, inclination or interest. Was the individual supportive, oppositio nal, or neutral toward the policy in question? Did the person voice his or her stance on the policy? Degree: Scale of intensity or amount. To what degre e did the individual support or oppose the policy? If one opposed the policy in que stion, to what degree did that person attempt to stop, obstruct, or mutate impleme ntation? Did the individual share his or her opposition or support with others in the organization? What means of communication did she or he use to do this ? To whom did he or she communicate the stance on the policy? Resources: Action, money, influence, information, e xpertise, or measure that can be brought to bear to influence or use. What resour ces were available to the individual that could be used to help or hinder imp lementation? What types of resources did the individual expend on this policy? What resources were specifically used in communicating the policy?


6 of 11Activity: Specific deed, action, or function; use o f force, influence, or process. What communication actions did the individual take to support or obstruct policy? How much communication activity did the individual expend to support or obstruct policy? With whom did the individual inter act during these communication activities? Autonomy: Degree of independence; how closely one h as to adhere to prescribed guidelines. A high degree of support or opposition will not have had much impact on expense of energy and resources if the individua l had little autonomy to exert influence on policy. What level of autonomy did tha t person have in his or her position? How does the individual's position influe nce the communication modes available to her or him? Societal Values: Ideals or customs for which people have an affective regard. How did societal values influence implementation? To wh at extend did the individual accept or reject specific societal values that infl uenced implementation? How did the actions or decisions of the individual change t he societal climate? Institutional Values: Professional ideals or custom s for which members have an affective regard. How did institutional values infl uence implementation? How are the institutional values communicated to the indivi dual? To what extend did the individual accept or reject specific institutional values that influenced implementation? How did the actions or decisions of the individual change the institutional climate? How did the institutional cl imate change the actions or decisions of the individual? Rationale: Fundamental, underlying reasons to accou nt for something. What explanation does the individual provide for his or her orientation toward the policy? Does the individual have superseding intere sts, loyalties or values that conflict with the policy? Power Relationship: Degree of status relative to in dividual position. What type of communication, both informal and formal, occurred b etween same or different power levels? The preceding questions establish a framework that informs us about individual perspectives toward policy and policy implementatio n. These criteria establish a relationship to policy implementation in individual terms and recognize that the relationship between the individual and the organiz ation is reciprocal rather than unidirectional. Additionally, these questions can b e re-worded to include issues of both informal and formal means of communication. This fr amework also takes into account societal and institutional contexts through investi gating communication lines that influence individuals, and that individuals change institutions through actions, decisions, and participation in both informal and formal means of communication.ConclusionsThe individual emphasis of the preceding framework is consistent with the work of Bess (1988), that recognizes that ongoing and unresolvab le differences exist among institutional participants. The framework also acco unts for divisions of labor and labor specialization, which encourage individuals to iden tify and congregate into smaller units


7 of 11that share similar values, attitudes or perspective s. These smaller units, in addition to organizational divisions of labor, contribute to th e differences in communication. These in turn not only have an impact in how policies are interpreted but also in how they are implemented. Individual interests and breakdowns in communication increase the likelihood of irrational behavior and conflict (Per row, 1973, pp. 2-15). Often the irrational actions are more readily recognized with the breakdowns in communication that occur. The qualitative scholar can investigate informal co mmunication lines to develop an understanding of how policy is developed, implement ed, and how it changes in the interim. A people-centered focus encourages us to b etter understand the role of individuals throughout the institutional hierarchy in implementing policy and the influence they have in determining its final form. Such an approach recognizes that individuals are not machines, and cannot be program med to consistently perform in a mechanistic and rational manner. The result is a mu lti-dimensional understanding of how policy is affected by individuals. We displace the locus of responsibility when we think in terms of how institutions implement policy Such displacement shifts responsibility from individuals to institutions and compels us to assign blame or praise on constructs rather than the individuals who make and implement decisions. An examination of the roles of the individual and c ommunication in an institution must be understood in a bi-directional rather than unidi rectional framework. A unidirectional communication focus limits access to understanding how a policy is implemented, whereas a bi-directional communication framework ex pands access to learning how an individual's values, attitudes, and perspectives—th e human factors—impact policy implementation or mutation. Recognition of the rol e of formal and informal communication channels in organizations is critical in discerning the process necessary for effective policy implementation. The framework proposed in this article is an initial point for connecting qualitative research and organ izational theories regarding communication in policy implementation. It is a fr amework for exploring how the individual shapes policy and how the institution sh apes policy through the individual. This article recognizes educational institutions to be complex social structures with multiple agendas, rather than rational-bureaucratic structures that exist in a vacuum (Dellar, 1994). As a social process that sometimes involves the use of informal, rather than formal bureaucratic protocol, policy implement ation is an interconnected part of the social structure. Where there are internally strong political undercu rrents there will co-exist important informal communication systems (White, 1990). It is in investigating the role of individuals via a qualitative examination of the co mmunication channels that exist within an organization that the scholar can begin t o reassemble the factors that influenced the implementation of policy.ReferencesAndrews, P. & Herschel, R. (1996). Organizational communication: Empowerment in a technological society. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Bess, J. (1988). Collegiality and bureaucracy in the modern universi ty: The influence of information and power on decision-making structures New York, NY: Teachers


8 of 11College Press.Blount, P. (1992). Making history alive for seconda ry students: Infusing people into the narrative. Social Studies, 83, 220-223. Dellar, G. (1994, April). Schools as open social systems: A study of site spe cific restructuring. Paper presented at the American Educational Resear ch Association, New Orleans, LA.Duemer, L.S. 1999. Integration in "The last capital of the Confederacy": Case study of Black clergy involvement in the integration process The Negro Educational Review, Vol. XLIX, 107-117. Elster, J. (1989). Nuts and bolts for the social sciences. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Feinberg, W. & Soltis, J. (1992). School and society. New York: Teachers College Press.Greenfield, T. (1984). Leaders and schools: Willful ness and nonnatural order in organizations. In T. J. Sergiovanni & J. E. Corball y (Eds.), Leadership and organizational culture: New perspectives on adminis trative theory and practice (pp. 142-169). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.Grim, V. (1995). Integrating oral history into the classroom curriculum: A tool for helping students understand the American and Africa n-American experience. Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, 20, 3-19. Manning, D. (1990). Hill country teacher: Oral histories from the one-r oom school and beyond. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing. March, J. (1984). How we talk and how we act: Admin istrative theory and administrative life. In T. J. Sergiovanni & J. E. C orbally (Eds.), Leadership and organizational culture: New perspectives on adminis trative theory and practice (pp. 18-35). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.March, J. and Olsen, J. (1979). Ambiguity and choice in organizations. Bergen, Sweden: Universitetsforlaget.Perrow, C. (1973). The short and glorious history o f organizational theory. Organizational Dynamics, 2, 2-15. Pressman, J. W., A. (1984). Implementation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Sergiovanni, T. (1984). Cultural and competing pers pectives in administrative theory and practice. In T. J. Sergiovanni & J. E. Corbally (Eds.), Leadership and organizational culture: New perspectives on administrative theory and practice (pp. 1-12). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.Taylor, F. (1919). Principles of scientific management. New York: Harper & Row.


9 of 11 Weber, M. (1947). The theory of social and economic organizations. Translated by A. M. Henderson and T. Parsons; edited by T. Parsons. New York: Oxford University Press.White, K. (1990, November). The implementation of state-mandated program review : A case study of governance and decision making in com munity colleges. Paper presented at the Association for the Study of Higher Educatio n, Saint Louis, MO. Williams, W. E., R. (1976). Social program implementation. New York, NY: Academic Press.About the AuthorsLee S. Duemer, Ph.D.Assistant ProfessorTexas Tech UniversityCollege of EducationDivision of Educational Psychology and LeadershipBox 41071Lubbock, TX 79409-1071Email: lduemer@ttacs.ttu.eduLee S. Duemer is Assistant Professor in the Divisio n of Educational Psychology and Leadership, College of Education at Texas Tech Univ ersity. He received his Ph.D. in Social, Historical, and Philosophical Foundations o f Education from The University of Pittsburgh. He teaches history of education, philos ophy of education, and qualitative research. His research interests are history of hig her education, and archival qualitative inquiry in higher education.Sylvia E. Mendez-MorseEmail: Sylvia.Mendez.morse@ttu.eduSylvia E. Mndez-Morse is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Educational Psychology and Leadership, College of Education at Texas Tech University. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Administration fr om The University of Texas at Austin. She teaches classes on Communication for Sc hool Leaders, School and Community Relations, Organizational Communication, Instructional Supervision, and Gender Issues in Educational Leadership. Dr. Mndez -Morse has conducted research in educational leadership and educational reform, focu sing on administrators leading educational change efforts which improve the instru ctional needs of language minority students. Her research interests are Latina educati onal leaders, leadership for social justice, and gender issues in educational leadershi p.Copyright 2002 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be


10 of 11addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8 5287-2411. The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Richard Garlikov Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Alison I. Griffith York University Arlen Gullickson Western Michigan University Ernest R. House University of Colorado Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Ontario Institute ofTechnology Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College Dewayne Matthews Education Commission of the States William McInerney Purdue University Mary McKeown-Moak MGT of America (Austin, TX) Les McLean University of Toronto Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Anne L. Pemberton Hugh G. Petrie SUNY Buffalo Richard C. Richardson New York University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Dennis Sayers California State University—Stanislaus Jay D. Scribner University of Texas at Austin Michael Scriven Robert E. Stake University of Illinois—UC Robert Stonehill U.S. Department of Education David D. Williams Brigham Young University EPAA Spanish Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editor for Spanish Language Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico


11 of 11 Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de Teresa Bracho (Mxico) Centro de Investigacin y DocenciaEconmica-CIDEbracho Alejandro Canales (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Ursula Casanova (U.S.A.) Arizona State Jos Contreras Domingo Universitat de Barcelona Erwin Epstein (U.S.A.) Loyola University of Josu Gonzlez (U.S.A.) Arizona State Rollin Kent (Mxico)Departamento de InvestigacinEducativa-DIE/ Mara Beatriz Luce (Brazil)Universidad Federal de Rio Grande do Sul-UFRGSlucemb@orion.ufrgs.brJavier Mendoza Rojas (Mxico)Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicojaviermr@servidor.unam.mxMarcela Mollis (Argentina)Universidad de Buenos Humberto Muoz Garca (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicohumberto@servidor.unam.mxAngel Ignacio Prez Gmez (Spain)Universidad de Daniel Schugurensky (Argentina-Canad)OISE/UT, Simon Schwartzman (Brazil)American Institutes for Resesarch–Brazil(AIRBrasil) Jurjo Torres Santom (Spain)Universidad de A Carlos Alberto Torres (U.S.A.)University of California, Los